It was just another night at the Perry house. The dogs were inside, happily wrestling and playing while the family looked on. But in an instant, things took a deadly turn.
The family’s smaller dog, Blue, was playing with their bigger dog, Scout, when Scout’s tooth became stuck beneath Blue’s collar. Both dogs panicked. As they struggled to break free, the collar twisted tighter and tighter until Blue began to strangle right before their eyes.
“That’s when our daughter Julia got to them,” Jim Perry said. “She was able to cut the collar off just in the nick of time.” But Blue was in bad shape. They rushed her to the 24-hour emergency clinic where she was admitted in critical condition.
“Blue was having trouble breathing,” said Blue’s veterinarian Natalie James, DVM, an emergency/critical care resident at VCA West Coast Specialty and Emergency Animal Hospital in Fountain Valley, California. “She was lethargic and weak. Blue was suffering from non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema, or NCPE for short.”
A number of things can cause NCPE. In Blue’s case, it was because the tight collar cut off her airway. “As a dog is strangled, the stress causes a release of inflammatory cells that damage the vessels within the lungs,” Dr. James said. “These damaged vessels cause fluid to leak out into the tissue of the lungs. The fluid accumulates, causing the lungs to sound ‘wet’ when you listen to them, and impairs the body’s ability to take in the oxygen and use it normally.”
The Perrys didn’t know if Blue would make it through the night.
“Ultimately, it’s a lot of wait and see their response to oxygen and time,” Dr. James said. “NCPE is treated with oxygen and supportive care, including IV fluids and sedation to treat the anxiety triggered by the difficulty breathing. We also used medications in an attempt to clear the fluid faster.”
Miraculously, and thanks to the excellent veterinary care she received, Blue beat the odds and made a complete recovery. Dr. James said she should have no lasting effects from the trauma. “Her lungs won’t necessarily return to the exact same as before, but they will be able to compensate for any scar tissue that may develop,” she said. “She should have a normal life from here on out.”
The Perrys couldn’t believe such a freak accident could have happened, but after they shared what happened to Blue on their Facebook page, friends started chiming in with similar stories.
“Only after this happened, did I hear story after story of similar tragedies,” said Jim’s wife Cat Perry. “Not only was this traumatic, but VERY costly.”
One of the biggest steps you can take to prevent an accident like this is to invest in a collar with a quick-release attachment. These are designed to quickly and easily unsnap in the event that the collar becomes caught on something. Also avoid chain collars, which are impossible to cut if they become caught.
“Make sure the collar fits the pet,” Dr. James said. “No chains, prongs, or tight pieces. I personally recommend that owners microchip their pets. Collars only work to relocate pets if the tags stay updated and on the pet. My own dogs have collars, but they are loose. I use gentle leaders for walks, and both have microchips.”
Dr. James also warned against leaving a collar on your dog if he is in a crate or kennel because they can get stuck in the bars or mesh.
The entire Perry family is relieved that Blue is all healed and back home, especially her buddy Scout, who was noticeably depressed while Blue was in the hospital. This happy outcome is all thanks to the quick thinking and fast action of the Perry kids, teens Julia and Atticus, who remained cool under pressure and cut off Blue’s collar, saving her life.
“My two kids were in the right place at the right time, thank god,” Cat Perry said. “They took swift action and saved Blue. We are switching to harnesses and no collars while at home or unsupervised.”